TOWSON, MD (September 15, 2017) – Each year, AAA rescues 32 million stranded motorists across North America, many of them on the side of busy roadways. Roadside workers, including first responders and tow truck operators, put their lives at risk every time they work on a disabled vehicle or respond to a crash.
Although all 50 states require drivers to reduce their speed and switch lanes to protect these workers, drivers routinely fail to do so, creating a potentially deadly situation.
Tragically, in July, tow truck driver Brian Lee Williams was fatally struck while retrieving a disabled car on the side of the road on northbound I-95 in Cecil County. Williams had recently retired after a 31-year career serving the Community Fire Company of Perryville.
Another tragic crash just this past Sunday, on Route 222 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, involved a tower, Ralph Henry Watrous II, as well as the motorist he was assisting, Robert M. Buckwalter, Jr. who were killed by a passing driver.
To help raise awareness of these life-saving Move Over laws, and to honor the approximately 200 roadside workers who lose their lives each year in the line of duty, AAA is sponsoring the Spirit Ride, an inaugural event hosted by American Towman Magazine.
“AAA is honored to support the Spirit Ride to help raise awareness of the Move Over laws that are designed to protect first responders, tow truck operators and other roadside workers,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “AAA urges all drivers to slow down and switch lanes, if safely possible, when encountering flashing lights or a disabled vehicle at the roadside.”
The Spirit Ride is a year-long processional designed to bring attention to state Move Over laws. From now through 2018, more than 400 volunteer towing companies across over 250 U.S cities will travel on roadways with a ceremonial casket that honors first responders who have lost their lives while working at the roadside.
On Saturday, September 16, the Spirit Ride, featuring a procession of more than 50 tow trucks and emergency vehicles, will travel to Thurmont, Maryland, relaying the Spirit casket to the Guardian Hose Company, the all-volunteer fire and rescue service, at 123 East Main Street. Local fire responders, along with the Frederick Sheriff’s office and Maryland State Police, have been invited to participate in a ceremony at 10:00am featuring confirmed speakers:
With the recent enactment in New Mexico, all 50 states now require motorists to move over one lane or slow down when they pass roadside workers, such as first responders or tow truck operators, who are stopped on the side of the road. Public awareness of these important, life-saving laws remains low, with 71 percent of Americans unaware of their existence, according to the National Safety Commission. The Spirit Ride aims to spread the “Slow Down, Move Over” message and encourage drivers to adhere to their state’s laws.
Maryland’s law requires drivers traveling in the same direction and approaching a stopped emergency vehicle using flashing lights, including tow trucks, to change into a lane not immediately adjacent to the vehicle, if possible, or to slow to a speed safe for weather, road, and traffic conditions.
Failure to comply with Maryland’s law will result in a $110 fine and one point on a driver’s license. If the driver fails to move over and contributes to a crash, a fine of $150 and three points on the license will be imposed. If the violation contributes to a crash that results in death, three points will be assessed to the driver’s license and the fine rises to $750.
To protect roadside workers and improve highway safety, AAA Mid-Atlantic offers these precautionary tips:
Always remain alert. Avoid distractions and focus on the task of driving.
Watch for situations where emergency vehicles, tow trucks or utility service vehicles are stopped on the side of the road.
When approaching an emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights on the side of a two-lane roadway, slow down to a speed safe for weather, road, and traffic conditions, and approach with caution, unless otherwise directed by an emergency worker on the scene.
On multilane roadways, slow down when you see an emergency vehicle using flashing lights at the roadside and, if safely possible, move over into an adjacent lane.
The Spirit Ride was founded by American Towman Magazine and B/A Products and is a project of American Towman Spirit, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, established to promote highway safety. Tow industry sponsors have pitched in with funds to support the coordination of the Ride and its media outreach campaign. All towing companies participating are volunteering their services to relay the casket.
For more information on the Move Over laws in your state, visit https://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/move-over-law/.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and more than 937,000 members in Maryland. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.AAA.com.